Buzzworthiness: Rollet

Thanks to Et Games for providing a review copy of Rollet.

I’m back from Gen Con, and if you’re ready for a recap…you’ll have to wait until Thursday.  Check my Twitter feed for some brief thoughts, with more detail then.  For now, here’s a review of

image by BGG user Et Games
image by BGG user Et Games

Rollet is a wooden dexterity game designed by David Harvey and published by Et Games, a British company.  It’s for 2-4 players…well, really, it’s for four players with a two player version.  The game was originally published in 2014, but they’re currently running a Kickstarter for a deluxe version with adjustable micro feet.

The board consists of a wooden floor that slopes up to the center where a divot marks where a wooden ball will be placed.  One removable chute is placed in a hole that can be found in each corner quadrant, as marked by wooden rails.  The rails on either in have a gap, which is the goal and contains a block that has a point.  Each player gets three steel balls to begin the game.

A game of Rollet begins with a high ten – all four players slap hands with their neighbors.  This ensures that everyone is starting from the same place, and that no one is smuggling budgies (aka holding on to a steel ball for an early shot).  After the high ten, players quickly grab steel balls and send them down the chute, attempting to strike the wooden ball and send it into their opponent’s goal.  You may not grab a steel ball that is not in your quadrant,  though your partner may pass you some.  As soon as the wooden ball goes into a goal, the round is over and the opposing players score one point.  Repeat (don’t redistribute the steel balls) until a team has scored five points.  They win.

COMPONENTS: The main component here is the board.  It’s got great construction, made of solid and beautiful wood.  The board is well balanced, so much so that you really need a flat surface to play on, or the balls all go to one side.  This is part of the reason for the Kickstarter – Et Games wants to put little feet on the board so you can adjust for surfaces that are not perfectly flat.  For now, the game comes with coasters so you can prop up one side or another (or put your drinks on them, your call).

The game comes with a zippered cloth bag to hold the miscellaneous components like the wooden ball, steel balls, and coasters.  It’s all packed very well into a cardboard box with cutouts for the chutes.  Great overall quality.

THEME: No theme here.  Just pure dexterity.

MECHANICS: This is a dexterity game that features real-time play.  There’s no lining up shots, as in Crokinole or Catacombs.  If you pause to aim, you’ve lost.  You have to fire as quickly as you can, and try to hone your reflexes so you are at least shooting in the correct direction.  There’s no flicking or stacking, which are the most common dexterity categories, just point-and-shoot.

The high ten at the beginning of each round is genius.  It’s like a pre-game handshake, except it’s a high ten, occupying both hands and making sure everyone is on a level field.  The no-redistribution rule is a good way to make sure people try to conserve their shots.  And playing to five feels like an appropriate length for the game.

STRATEGY LEVEL: As I said, there’s no lining up of shots here, so there really isn’t much strategy.  There are some named tactics, such as “skimming the milk” (trying to hit the back of a ball that is perched right by the goal), but it’s really difficult to focus on those mid game.  In general, you can kind of shut your mind off and just have fun with it.

ACCESSIBILITY: This game has very simple rules and is extremely easy to play.  It’s not necessarily easy to master, but it’s a highly accessible game.  They say it’s good from ages 7 to 107, and can I just say that this distinction always annoys me.  What if a 108-year-old wants to play?  Do I say, sorry, you’re over 107, you can’t play?  Granted, I don’t know any 108-year-olds, but just hypothetically.  OK, tongue-in-cheek mini rant over.

REPLAYABILITY: This is a game that can be played back to back to back with no problems.  People can sub in, and just play until your heart’s content.  Great replayability.

SCALABILITY: As mentioned, this is a four-player game.  Two teams of two is the best way to play.  The two-player version includes a rule that if you can get all 12 steel balls on your opponent’s side and yell “CANNONBAAAALLLLL!”, you win automatically.  I tried it, and the game just isn’t as interesting unless you have four players.

INTERACTION: Really good interaction here.  You have to communicate with your teammate about ball supply, and of course you’re shooting against the other team, so trash talk will ensue.

FOOTPRINT: The game itself doesn’t take up much space.  The board is a couple of feet long, but there’s no extra components.  As long as you have a flat surface, you’re probably going to be OK.  The biggest issue is just that it’s heavy.  Lugging it around Gen Con was NOT fun.

LEGACY: I don’t have any dexterity games like this, nor do I really know of any.  The comparison was made to Hungry Hungry Hippos a couple of times, except with wood instead of plastic, and your shooting balls instead of trying to collect them, and the sound is not nearly as annoying, and the thing doesn’t break when you play it.  So really, NOTHING like Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Its construction reminds me of Crokinole, but it is a completely different game.  It’s very unique, but it feels classic – a couple of people thought they had something like it when they were kids just from looking at it, but they didn’t play so I don’t know if they actually did.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I have nothing bad to say about this game.  It’s a blast to play.  It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s beautiful.  Their crowdfunding campaign is running for another 30 hours as of the publication of this article.  Check out the Kickstarter now where you can pledge for the basic game for £48 ($63 USD), or the Luxury version with micro adjustable feet for £79 ($104 USD).  There’s still a ways to go before it funds so we’ll see.

Thanks again to Et Games for the review copy of Rollet, and thanks to you for reading!

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